SEC 2023 Football Schedules, NFL Draft Expectations, and More

April 17, 2023 by Staff

Each SEC team will play eight conference football games to include six games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents. One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent and the other non-division opponent will rotate each year.

The Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns are set to join the SEC in 2024 bringing the roster of programs to 16 teams. For 2023, that number remains at 14 teams, split into two divisions - the eastern and western.

NFL Draft To Take 13 SEC Players In First Round

13 players from the SEC are universally expected to be taken in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, including Alabama QB Bryce Young with either the first or second pick. Another 'Bama player, defensive standout Will Anderson, Jr. is expected to go with the 4th pick while DB Brian Branch is seen as a later first-round selection.

Each NFL team has targeted positions to fill and FanDuel Sportsbook has odds for which position each team will take with it first pick.

Florida QB Anthony Richardson has climbed as high as No. 3 in the mock drafts, while fellow Gator O'Cyrus Torrence (OL) could go mid-to-late first round.

Four Georgia Bulldogs are among the top 32 prospects - Jalen Carter (DL), Broderick Jones (OL), Nolan Smith (Edge), and Darnell Washington (TE).

The other players on the list of 13 are Kentucky QB Will Levis, Tennessee offensive lineman Darnell Wright, Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders, and LSU edge rusher BJ Ojulari.

There are plenty of other attractive SEC players, including Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker as a potential top five QB choice, and Mississippi State DB Emmanuel Forbes is seen as a first-round pick by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.

Coaching Changes

Auburn - Hugh Freeze said 'bye bye' to Liberty on November 28. and "hello" to Auburn exactly one month after signing an 8-year extension with his former school. Freeze gets another shot in the SEC after being embarrassingly forced out at Ole Miss in 2016.

That's when a messy trail of public relations nightmares and NCAA violations dating back to the Houston Nutt era came to a head when it was learned that Freeze had several calls to an escort service found on school-issued phone. The NCAA also cited numerous violations by Freeze and his staff from October 2012 to January 2016 and leveled the most serious charge of lack of institutional control. In response, Ole Miss self-imposed a 2017 bowl ban and other restrictions. The NCAA on December 1 announced its penalties which added 2018 to the bowl ban and a further reduction of scholarships.

Freeze was 39-25 in five seasons, but 5-7 in 2016. At Liberty, Freeze was 34-15 in four seasons and 3-0 in bowl games.

Mississippi State - After head coach Mike Leach tragically passed away on December 12, defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was immediately named interim head coach for bowl season. Arnett had the interim tag removed on December 15 and became the official head coach.

Leach, in a 21-year career as a major college football coach at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, compiled records of 158-107 over-all and 8-9 in bowl games. He became known as "The Pirate" and once said that "Pirates function as a team. There were a lot of castes and classes in England at the time. But with pirates, it didn't matter if you were black, white, rich or poor. The object was to get a treasure. If the captain did a bad job, you could just overthrow him."

(See: Coaching Changes)

Schedule Notes

The 2023 season begins with 7 games in week zero, only one of which includes a team from the SEC as Vanderbilt hosts Hawaii on Saturday, September 26.

Everyone else opens on Labor Day weekend.

That's when the Hugh Freeze era begins at Auburn as the Tigers host one of the historically-worst FBS teams in America, the UMass Minutemen.

Florida will be the second SEC team to kick off its 2023 campaign. A Thursday, August 31 contest sends the Gators on a reciprocal visit to Utah after Florida dished out a 29-26 upset in Gainesville in last year's season opener.

The biggest of the SEC's Intersectional openers is LSU's trip to Orlando on Sunday, September 3 to face Florida State at Camping World Stadium. The teams opened in New Orleans a year ago with the 'Noles taking a 24-23 win on a walk-off blocked field goal.

Saturday, September 2 games include South Carolina taking on North Carolina in the Duke's Mayo Classic game in Charlotte, while Nashville hosts a Tennessee-Virginia matchup in the first game for the Cavs since the school shooting last November.

None of the other SEC teams face serious opposition in week 1 as six schools take on FCS opponents and the rest battle G5 programs.

Week 2 is a different story. That's when Texas takes a reciprocal visit to Alabama after losing 20-19 at home to the Tide on a 33-yard field goal with 10 seconds left. Saturday, September 9 also features Auburn at Cal, Ole Miss at Tulane, Texas A&M at Miami, and Vanderbilt at Wake Forest.

September 16 presents some interesting inter-conference matchups with Alabama at South Florida, BYU at Arkansas, Georgia Tech at Ole Miss, and Kansas State at Missouri. Three huge SEC openers will also be staged on that same Saturday with Tennessee at Florida, South Carolina at Georgia and LSU at Mississippi State.

The season will culminate with the SEC Championship Game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, December 2. It will be the 32nd edition of the game and the 30th in the city of Atlanta.


9/2 Middle Tennessee
9/9 Texas
9/16 at South Florida
9/23 Ole Miss
9/30 at Mississippi State
10/7 at Texas A&M
10/14 Arkansas
10/21 Tennessee
11/4 LSU
11/11 at Kentucky
11/18 UT Chattanooga (FCS)
11/25 at Auburn

NOTES: Alabama hosts Texas in week 2 after paying a visit to Texas last year for its first non-conference road game since 2011. This year, the Tide visit USF in week 3 for the first road game to a non-Power 5 school since the 2003 season finale at Hawaii which 'Bama lost 37-29.

9/2 Western Carolina (FCS) (at Little Rock)
9/9 Kent State
9/16 BYU
9/23 at LSU
9/30 Texas A&M (Arlington)
10/7 at Ole Miss
10/14 at Alabama
10/21 Mississippi State
11/4 at Florida
11/11 Auburn
11/18 Florida International
11/25 Missouri

NOTES: The Razorbacks will play a 'home' game in Little Rock for the first time since 2018. It used to be a twice-annual event with one game against a automatic win opponent (re: UL-Monroe) and one against a quality SEC game (re: LSU). This year, the Hogs will open against FCS foe Western Carolina in the state capital.

All four non-conference games are at home and the lineup is as weak as it gets. The only one of interest is BYU's reciprocal visit after Arkansas won 52-35 in Provo last year.

9/2 Massachusetts
9/9 at California
9/16 Samford (FCS)
9/23 at Texas A&M
9/30 Georgia
10/14 at LSU
10/21 Ole Miss
10/28 Mississippi State
11/4 at Vanderbilt
11/11 at Arkansas
11/18 New Mexico State
11/25 Alabama

NOTES: Auburn opens a UMass program that ranks 107th all-time in FBS winning percentage. The Tigers' November non-conference game on November 18 is against a New Mexico State program that ranks last in that statistic. They also play the historically 3rd-worst PAC-12 team. The most dangerous non-conference team on this slate could easily be FCS member Samford.

8/31 at Utah
9/9 McNeese State (FCS)
9/16 Tennessee
9/23 Charlotte
9/30 at Kentucky
10/7 Vanderbilt
10/14 at South Carolina
10/28 Georgia (Jacksonville)
11/4 Arkansas
11/11 at LSU
11/18 at Missouri
11/25 Florida State

NOTES: 2 of the 4 non-conference games will be tough to win with an opening date at Utah and a closing game at home against rival Florida State. Last year, the Gators upset the Utes in Gainesville and lost to FSU in Tallahassee.

Florida's two western division crossover games come in consecutive weeks in early November with a trip to LSU following a home game with Arkansas.

9/2 UT Martin (FCS)
9/9 Ball State
9/16 South Carolina
9/23 UAB
9/30 at Auburn
10/7 Kentucky
10/14 at Vanderbilt
10/28 Florida (Jacksonville)
11/4 Missouri
11/11 Ole Miss
11/18 at Tennessee
11/25 at Georgia Tech

NOTES: Georgia's first four games are at home and three are likely walkovers. The fourth, conference foe South Carolina, stunned the 'Dawgs at home 20-17 in 2019. The only Power 5 non-conference game is the finale at rival Georgia Tech

9/2 Ball State
9/9 Eastern Kentucky (FCS)
9/16 Akron
9/23 at Vanderbilt
9/30 Florida
10/7 at Georgia
10/14 Missouri
10/28 Tennessee
11/4 at Mississippi State
11/11 Alabama
11/18 at South Carolina
11/25 at Louisville

NOTES: After losing 31 straight to Florida, the 'Cats have now won 2 straight over-all, and 3 of the last 5. Florida visit Lexington on September 30. Alabama visits for the first time since 2013. Kentucky is 2-38-1 all-time vs. Alabama, including 2-16 at home. The last win over the Tide came in overtime in Lexington in 1997.

State rival Louisville is the only Power 5 school on the non-conference slate.

9/3 Florida State (at Orlando)
9/9 Grambling (FCS)
9/16 at Mississippi State
9/23 Arkansas
9/30 at Ole Miss
10/7 at Missouri
10/14 Auburn
10/21 Army
11/4 at Alabama
11/11 Florida
11/18 Georgia State
11/25 Texas A&M

NOTES: Only 2 of LSU's first five games are at home. The flip side is the Bayou Bengals end with 3 straight home games.

9/2 Mercer (FCS)
9/9 at Tulane
9/16 Georgia Tech
9/23 at Alabama
9/30 LSU
10/7 Arkansas
10/21 at Auburn
10/28 Vanderbilt
11/4 Texas A&M
11/11 at Georgia
11/18 Louisiana-Monroe
11/23 at Mississippi State

NOTES: Week 2 presents a trap game for the Rebels with a visit to a Tulane program that closed a tremendous 2022 season with a victory over USC in the Cotton Bowl. Ole Miss leads the series 43-29, thanks to 12 straight wins. Otherwise, the non-conference slate is blasé with visits by Georgia Tech, FCS member Mercer and a UL-Monroe program that has the 8th-worst all-time winning percentage among FBS schools.


9/2 SE Louisiana (FCS)
9/9 Arizona
9/16 LSU
9/23 at South Carolina
9/30 Alabama
10/7 Western Michigan
10/21 at Arkansas
10/28 at Auburn
11/4 Kentucky
11/11 at Texas A&M
11/18 Southern Miss
11/23 Ole Miss

NOTES: Other than the four mandatory SEC road games, Mississippi State doesn't leave Starkville

9/2 South Dakota (FCS)
9/9 Middle Tennessee State
9/16 Kansas State
9/23 Memphis (at St. Louis)
9/30 at Vanderbilt
10/7 LSU
10/14 at Kentucky
10/21 South Carolina
11/4 at Georgia
11/11 Tennessee
11/18 Florida
11/25 at Arkansas

NOTES: Missouri's week 4 neutral game against Memphis in St. Louis had been scheduled back in 2010 as a road game to answer for Memphis' visit to Columbia in 2018. The game was going to be dropped altogether, but Memphis reluctantly signed-on to the deal last October after failing to find a suitable replacement.

Week 3 offers a reciprocal game home vs. Kansas State after the Tigers were throttled 40-12 in Manhattan last year.

The opener welcomes the 'other' South Dakota' FCS team - NOT the National Champions.

9/2 North Carolina (at Charlotte)
9/9 Furman (FCS)
9/16 at Georgia
9/23 Mississippi State
9/30 at Tennessee
10/14 Florida
10/21 at Missouri
10/28 at Texas A&M
11/4 Jacksonville State
11/11 Vanderbilt
11/18 Kentucky
11/25 Clemson

NOTES: Shane Beamer was making less than the school's women's basketball coach, Dawn Staley, until he was bumped from $2.75m to $6.125m in January.

The Gamecocks get 7 home games, including a full November calendar of 4 home dates.

The Charlotte Sports Foundation loves UNC and South Carolina. The organization runs the season-opening Duke's Mayo Classic and the season-ending "Duke's Mayo Bowl. When the Gamecocks and Tar Heels open in Charlotte this year, it will be their third meeting there since 2019, and fourth since 2015. The schools opened in Charlotte in 2019 and 2015, and met in the Duke's Mayo Bowl to end the 2021 campaign. South Carolina has won 4 of the last 5 meetings to cut UNC's all-time lead in the series to 35-20-4.

9/2 Virginia (at Nashville)
9/9 Austin Peay (FCS)
9/16 at Florida
9/23 UTSA
9/30 South Carolina
10/14 Texas A&M
10/21 at Alabama
10/28 at Kentucky
11/4 UConn
11/11 at Missouri
11/18 Georgia
11/25 Vanderbilt

NOTES: Tennessee's non-conference slate is unimpressive with. Virginia, Austin Peay, UTSA and UConn. Of those four schools, the most dangerous could be the Roadrunners. The SEC slate is pretty balanced and we can easily see 3-1 away (lose at 'Bama) and 3-1 at home (lose to Georgia). Seriously, 9-3 or 10-2 looks possible with this schedule.

9/2 New Mexico
9/9 at Miami (FLA)
9/16 Louisiana-Monroe
9/23 Auburn
9/30 Arkansas (Arlington)
10/7 Alabama
10/14 at Tennessee
10/28 South Carolina
11/4 at Ole Miss
11/11 Mississippi State
11/18 Abilene Christian (FCS)
11/25 at LSU

NOTES: An awful non-conference slate is saved only by a visit to Miami in week 2 as a reciprocal junket for the 'Canes visit to College Station last year. The 17-9 victory over Miami improved the Aggies' record to 3-1, but 6 straight losses followed en route to a 5-7 season.

8/26 Hawaii
9/2 Alabama A&M (FCS)
9/9 at Wake Forest
9/16 at UNLV
9/23 Kentucky
9/30 Missouri
10/7 at Florida
10/14 Georgia
10/28 at Ole Miss
11/4 Auburn
11/11 at South Carolina
11/25 at Tennessee

NOTES: Vandy opens in Week Zero with with a winnable home game against Hawaii and hosts FCS member Alabama A&M on Labor Day weekend for what could easily be a 2-0 start. A trip to Wake Forest follows and the Deacons no longer have QB Sam Hartman after he transferred to Notre Dame. Week four pays back UNLV's visit to Nashville in 2019 and the Rebels are breaking in a new head coach. Week 5 is a home game against Kentucky, whom the Commodores defeated last November. A home game against Missouri follows and Vandy only lost by 3 on the road a year ago. The last six games are much tougher, but Vanderbilt could be bowl-eligible by September 30.